Updated: Aug 20, 2018
Okay. This is my first blog post, ever! It’s been a long time in the making, and mostly a dream, so it seems only natural to talk about where the idea of Mums on the Run USA came from.....
To be honest, I liked the idea of creating a return to running group for moms post-partum for a long time, but working full time and running a lot kept it a long term goal. Now I am a new mom on (extended) maternity leave, which somehow seems to give what I have to say a little more merit.
I am a physical therapist, and also a runner. The passion for running didn’t really start until I was actually in PT school, then it was the only way I could stay sane. I had already run the Seattle Marathon before moving to Boston to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy, but it was a bucket list item, and once the race was done I had no desire to do it again. Then, I watched the Boston Marathon for the first time. That lit a spark in my soul somehow and I’ve never looked back. I was FAR from qualifying time (4:33 for my first marathon and needed to knock more than an hour off my time), but I made it my long term goal to chase down that BQ. It took 5 marathons, but I finally got my BQ at the Cape Cod Marathon, by less than 30seconds...but when I applied to run Boston that year, it still wasn’t fast enough. I knew this was a possibility, but still, I was devastated.
I run with the most amazing group of women called the Liberty Athletic Club. Every year they get a couple bibs for the Boston Marathon, and the year I didn’t make the cut for Boston, they gave me a bib. I trained hard through the snowiest winter ever in Boston (2014), utilized a coach, and raced my heart out on a cold rainy day in April. That year I PR’d and qualified with a time that I knew would get me spot the next year (3:28) . I couldn’t believe that I knocked over an hour off my initial marathon time. It was a dream realized.
Anyway, needless to say I had a lot of mileage under my belt and A LOT of time to think about life and my career while I ran. By the time I finally ran the Boston Marathon I was no longer a student and had been working at a sports medicine clinic for almost 2 years. I initially wanted to work with dancers, but as my passion for running grew, I preferred the endurance sports like running and triathlon. Marathon Physical Therapy (which is where I work) is big into sports medicine, but it’s also well known for its women’s health program. After being a PT for a couple years, I realized, it’s really hard to separate disciplines and “only be” sports med or women’s health. You can’t only treat the “outside” of the pelvis, that’s the cheaters way out.
My interest in womens health started shortly after working at Marathon PT, when I realized how many women needed help but weren’t getting it. There was a long list of people waiting for treatment, but those were just the ones who knew treatment was an option, and they were the minority for sure.
It seemed crazy that something so important (pelvic health) hardly gets any press or awareness. I like the idea of being able to help everybody, so naturally I was interested. However, being a good women's health therapist is a lot of hard work and requires extra training. My schedule was busy, and in my spare time I was running (and playing), then pregnant. It took me a while to realize that not only could I help this population, but I was already seeing them...for other injuries.
Most of the runners I treat are recreational and often times new to long distance running (hence why they need PT…). Most of the time they are injured because of training errors, but often accompanied by muscular dysfunction. I tend to see a lot of female runners because running is a sport that draws a lot of female athletes. Maybe it’s because running is so easy to find time to do, and all you need is a pair of shoes? Maybe it’s because it’s a trendy sport right now and burns a lot of calories in a short period of time? Who knows. But I started to see a pattern...
Out of curiosity, I started asking all my patients who were runners and moms if they had any incontinence (leaking urine typically). Some leaked with running, and some leaked at other times, but by my estimation, at least 90% of my patients had some sort of urinary incontinence. NINETY PERCENT!! This is me asking dozens of women over a couple of years. And all of these women were coming in for treatment for something else. Now, there were definitely times when I was treating an acute injury in a female runner who was also a mom with urinary incontinence, and the two were not related. However, most of the time (again this is estimation on my personal experience), I was tracing their symptoms back up to the back or pelvis and finding some sort of instability.
Was this related to their incontinence? How about their history of childbirth? Is it possible that when they start running again after childbirth, most women are not strengthening enough and never fully regain a “normal” connection to their deep core musculature, and develop abnormal functional mobility which leads to secondary injuries? Maybe.
It certainly makes sense, but why is there such a disconnect? Why are so many women living with pelvic floor dysfunction and doing NOTHING about it?!?
I think with a little education, a little strengthening, and a careful return to run program, we can drastically reduce the number of women with incontinence. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
I should also mention that there are so many other types of women’s health issues and pelvic floor dysfunctions, and I am not ignoring them, I’m just focusing on incontinence at the moment to highlight the prevalence of an often untreated issue. Peeing ones pants tends to be the first thing people think of when they hear the term “women’s health,” and I’m not trying to play into that bias. Let’s also keep the discussion going about constipation, pelvic pain, diastasis, etc!
My goal is for you to understand where the idea of Mums on the Run USA came from and for you to help spread the word to other women and moms who love to run. Together we can create a supportive community and help each other navigate motherhood!